ITOGON, Benguet — Workers of the Binga hydro-electric power plant in Barangay Tinongdan, here, are facing a blank wall as the new owner of the power-generating facility placed all employees under a five-month probationary status.
The workers’ union in the power plant facility offered for privatization last year is even facing possible union-busting with the new management opting to hire all 90 employees as new workers.
“We were told we would be treated as new employees because there is a change in management,” Ramon Capsula, Binga Employees and Workers’ Union (BEWU) president told reporters on July 16. He said he would ask SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) to reconsider the union.
Among the present workforce are two or three workers who are about to retire, according to Capsula. Besides, union-busting, he said, he fears losing employee benefits due the workers.
Capsula is now hired as a local community relations officer of the new company.
SNAP Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Rodolfo T. Azanza Jr. did not answer direct queries on the fate of local workers after the five-month probationary period.
“If a worker’s performance does not fit into the qualifications of the job, are you going to rehire him?” he asked throwing the question back to the community folk who were gathered in the village plaza on July 14 for a consultation.
Azanza clarified that SNAP absorbed all workers and employees of the National Power Corporation, as part of the agreement during the privatization process. He said his company is not obliged to absorb employees of the independent Itogon Power Generation Corporation (IPGC) but accommodated the same recognizing that they are indigenous peoples of the place and that they are competent in their respective fields.
In an interview, Azanza stressed that the five-month probationary period is a standard operating procedure, with the company treating all the employees as newly hired. He clarified that an evaluation would be done after the test period and those qualified would be hired as permanent employees of SNAP.
Azanza asserted that the new company operating Ambuklao-Binga Hydroelectric power plants has no union. “If the employees decide later to organize a new union, we will welcome it, but as of now, there is no employees union registered at SNAP-Benguet,” he said.
Earlier, even Itogon Vice-mayor Noel Ngolob said the workers could have been retained as permanent employees because they have been there for a long time.
Councilor Oscar Camantiles, in an earlier interview said it might be a violation of international labor laws to treat the power workers as newly hired when they have been working for the NPC for too long.
Azanza, however, maintained no law is being violated as he challenged both Camantiles and Ngolob to cite specific provisions of applicable laws.
Only around 50 belonged to the IPGC, which had a contract with NPC to maintain the Binga power plant. SNAP allegedly hired around 90 and is contemplating at deploying some of the workers in Ambuklao where a larger task to rehabilitate the facilities await them.
Azanza disclosed that former workers of other energy projects in north Luzon are also applying for applicable jobs but he prioritized former NPC and IPGC workers. # Lyn V. Ramo